Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Are There Weeds In Your Garden?

Metaphorically speaking of course.

Are there things in your life that just aren't right, and you know it? Do you have relationships that are strained? Do you have finances that aren't up to where you need them? Are you overweight? Do you have a deadline that is approaching for something and you're just not ready for it? Do you have some sort of challenge that is really wearing you down? In other words, do you have STRESS in your life? Those are the metaphorical "weeds" in your garden, the garden of life.

I am sure that most of us can answer yes to at least one of those questions above, or to other similar questions about our lives. Rare is the person that can say to you they have no stressful situations in their life. Stress is a fact of life for at least certain seasons. Some undoubtedly have more than others, and some undoubtedly deal with stress better than others. But the fact remains that stress is a part of life. It's not a matter of IF you'll have stress, it's a matter of WHEN, and more importantly, HOW you will deal with it.

I've read stats that say 90% of visits to doctors offices are in some way stress related. In my experience I'd have to agree. Stress does quite a number on our bodies. It affects rest, raises our blood pressure and pulse rate, reduces our immune response, damages our ability to digest food, and more. It even helps to create chronic inflammation in the body, which, if you've read my articles, you know is the breeding ground for pretty much every disease process known to man.

So now we know two things: 1. We all have stress, at least for a season, and 2. That's not a good thing. Feel encouraged yet? Neither do I. I promise we'll end on a good note, on how to deal with the "weeds" in our garden in an appropriate, wellness oriented manner. My 11 year old daughter was asking what my article was about just now, and I told her it was about dealing with stress, and she said to deal with stress one could just throw things around. That IS a response to stress, one probably used by some, but probably NOT a wellness oriented manner to deal with stress! (yes she was joking, no flying inanimate objects are allowed in Casa De Dr. Bruce)

So if we have weeds in our garden, what should we do? One way people deal with them is to whine and cry about their weeds. The get so wrapped up in them they sometimes don't do anything else because of their weeds. In other words they let their weeds limit their lives, they focus on them and get more distressed, depressed and don't perform at their best. Others try positive thinking by staring at their garden and saying "there are no weeds, there are no weeds, there are no weeds". In both of those scenarios, the weeds will take over your garden.

It's best to understand that there are two types of things in life: Those that you can affect, and those you can't. Once we realize that, then we can focus on dealing with the things we can change, and we won't waste time on those we can't, which does nothing but stress us out more. So find the weeds you can deal with, break out the weed killer and get to work. Don't go crazy and spray your weed killer everywhere indiscriminately, it may kill things that you don't want to kill. In other words, if we dive headlong into dealing with stress, without regard for how we might affect others, it can create more damage, hurting others and then creating more stress. Be strategic in your use of "weedkiller."

Ways to deal with stress include finding relaxation techniques (they're all over the internet). Use them regularly. Another is to live a life of gratitude. We have techniques to help people do just this in our office. Appropriate exercise also helps reduce the effects of stress significantly, and we often coach our patients on how to go about incorporating it into their lives. Learning how to rest well, with appropriate sleep hygiene diminishes the effects of stress as well. I've seen great results with patients once we get them to understand how to rest in a wellness manner. Developing a purpose in life helps to give one direction and prevent wasting of time on non-effective areas of life.

The results of doing these things are more than just stress relief. Relationships get better, people are healthier and more effective in their lives at work and home. Blood pressure drops many times. Medications can be reduced. Remember, if 90% of doctors visits are stress related, then learning how to best manage stress must then affect almost anything that would bring you in to see your health care providers in the first place.

Hey, wait a minute. If you control your stress too well, I may not be needed as much. I feel MY stress levels rising now. Scratch everything I said earlier!

Until next time...Be Well! (and less stressed)

Dr. Bruce

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